Monday, October 29, 2007

afternoon tea/dessert/italian: SABATINI TAIPEI



Trattoria Pizzeria SABATINI TAIPEI
at new green Sogo, 11 FL
No. 300, Chung Hsiao East Road, Sec 3 (at FuXing)
(02) 8772-1237

website: sabatini.co.jp in Japanese only

hours: 11:30 AM - 11:30PM (last orders at 10:30PM)

$$

Visit reviewed: 5/4/2007



Don't confuse this Sabatini as a new branch for the locally owned Sabatini Cucina on Chang An like I did with their similarly elegant atmosphere and friendly service. Apparently, it's a Italian restaurant from Japan- but either way, it's a very nice place to sit down and chat have some afternoon tea after a morning of shopping or walking around with your relatives (which is what we did).



While most of us were too full to have the afternoon tea buffet (NT$299), it seemed like quite a good deal. All you could eat tiramisu, panna cotta, sorbet, pizza and coffee or tea for a set price that was about the same as one drink and dessert. A good option for business meeting, ladies who lunch or even an afternoon date.



It wasn't very crowded and we were allowed to linger and relax. Everything tasted pretty good and I was very curious about their pizzas which seemed made fresh by request, and definitely eyed my Uncle's glass of mini scoops of sorbet. I will have to come back and check out the lunch or dinner menu sometime again soon, although I'm not encouraged by lone locust's review of their pizzas.

Located on the 11th floor of the green Sogo, check out the Japanese gardens and the view of the busy street below if you get a chance.

Friday, October 26, 2007

where can you find... the best waffles in Taipei?

When I first moved back to Taipei, I always had a lot of questions about where to find this or that.. I want to try something new because I know there are a lot of people who visit the site who actually do live and eat in Taipei with some great knowledge (though some of you just come to look at pictures of xiao long bao or beef noodle soup. hahah), or are looking for something in particular.

So I want to try every week to post "where can you find..." something and PLEASE respond if you have an opinion.

Also- if you have been LOOKING for something, let me know, either in the comments section or email and I will post it up in a future "where can you find..." and hopefully our fellow readers (lurkers!) will help us out.

So this week- where can you find the best waffles in Taipei?

Some places I've spotted waffles- coffee shops, McCafe, Hyatt Cafe, Big Tom's, Joyce Cafe- where it's more for afternoon tea or dessert.

I think the best waffles I've had in Taipei were at the Formosa Regent Hotel. That was a few years ago so I should go back to refresh my memory and see if it's still the same. I like my waffles light, airy and crisp, not thick and cake-like which tend to be the case here.


not taipei: from the Campanile in LA



Also if you make your own waffles at home, what's your favorite recipe or where do you get the mix or waffle makers? I find it easier to use a mix as a base and add a few things. While they have Krusteaz at Costco and various Japanese brands at the supermarkets, I haven't been able to find Betty Crocker here so I actually brought a box back from the states... I think I will bring back a waffle maker too on my next trip around.


AZIE at Grand Formosa Regent Hotel
41 Chung Shan N. Road, Sec 2
(02) 2523-8000 ext 3157


CAFE at GRAND HYATT TAIPEI
No.2, Sung Shou Road, 1FL
Taipei, Taiwan
(02) 2720 1234

JOYCE CAFE
No. 22, Ching Cheng St
(02) 2713-8362

What have you been looking for?? :)

edited 4/2009

I think all this time I had the Grand Formosa hotel confused with the Far Eastern hotel.. and I think that the good waffles I had years ago was at the Far Eastern since the Grand Formosa revisited was NOT good. I will have to revisit the Far Eastern sometime and see, and it makes sense since it's a Shangri La hotel.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

chinese: i strongly recommend KAO CHI



KAO CHI
5 Yongkang Street
(02) 2341-9984

website: kao-chi.com

11 AM- 10 PM, Mon- Fri
8:30AM- 10:30PM, Sat and Sun

$-$$

Kid friendliness: didn't spot high chairs, but can't imagine that this restaurant isn't bustling with families and kids during their weekends and nights.

Visit reviewed:10/18/2007



Take your out of town friends to Din Tai Fung. But impress your local friends or relatives by taking them to the nearby Kao Chi or when there's too much of a wait at DTF. With xiao long bao that's just as good (and cheaper!) and a much more extensive menu of Shanghai and Chinese deliciousness including shanghai fried stuffed buns, beef noodle soup, dim sum, stir fried rice cakes, veggies, seafood and desserts like cool almond tofu, I was surprised I hadn't heard of or been taken to this almost 60 year old establishment earlier.



Complete review and more pics to come...

Other location (new):

152, FuXing S Rd, Sec 1
(02) 2751-9393
Hours:8 am-11:30 pm

Monday, October 22, 2007

italian/spanish: i strongly recommend FORCHETTA



FORCHETTA
4, Alley 127, AnHo Road., Sec 1
(02) 2707-7776

Lunch 12pm to 2pm
Dinner: 6pm to 10pm

$$-$$$

Kid friendliness: no kids or babies that night. didn't spot any high chairs. sort of a lovely dinner retreat for grownups. get a babysitter and have a romantic evening out, or maybe have an early dinner before the dinner rush.

Visit reviewed: 10/18/2007

First, you have to know that I'm a sucker for a beautifully plated dish. Maybe it's from watching too much Top Chef, maybe it's from eating too many family style Chinese meals, but something about how someone can make a little tower of food look like art that you almost don't want to disturb the contents to eat it. It's almost magical.

Second, I don't like pretty food that doesn't taste good.

But Forchetta doesn't disappoint by giving you pretty and not tasting pretty. It looks pretty AND tastes delicious.



The bites of steak I had left me wanting for more. Maybe it was the smaller portion from our set menu course. Maybe it was the tenderness that made me want to keep chewing and chewing until it dissolved in my mouth. Maybe it was just THAT good. From start to finish, our meal made my mouth water from the minute the waiter put each plate in front of me to the minute I left the restaurant (with the exception of the wee-too spicy for me pasta with chicken).



I have to give credit to our friends who discovered this Italian fusion bistro with a modern romantic setting which opens out to a little patio that you would not expect to find in a little alley in Taipei, but if you've lived and eaten here long enough, you are sort of not surprised. Our friends were the ones who asked the waiter to ask the chef to put together a set menu of the chef's picking (and treated- so sorry for not knowing/noting the prices for each dish). From glancing very quickly at the menu (in both English and Chinese, entrees averaging around NT$800), you could put together the same yourself, but I don't know if the portions we got that night were set menu portions or standard menu portions.

The chef/owner has worked before at VVG (Hao Yang) and Cosi O Cosi and you can sort of see the evolution. If you like the food at either of those places, consider Forchetta a more grown up version. It seemed like the night out for adults as the tables quickly filled up with nicely dressed groups of Chinese and English speakers- I'm not sure how many were walk in and how many were reservations. The other tables also lingered from 7pm past 10pm, still having conversations after we left.

Besides the steak, I really enjoyed the buffalo mozzarella, house made sun dried tomato salad (in the top picture) topped with a bit of lemon foam and a fried won ton skin strip, as well as the sauteed abalone in a bed of foamy mashed potatoes. A lot of things seem to be imported (like the mozz) and the proscuitto which the waiter said comes from a particular part of Europe (I think he said Spain.)

Also, I've never seen this before, but I suppose it's a unique way of combining the flavors of bruschetta without the mess- they took the toasted bread, give you a half tomato to gently rub against each slice and spread some garlic mayo ontop. The result is a do-it yourself mix of flavors and textures that is addictive.



While I don't usually like to eat quail (the small bones and size freaks me a out a little bit), I couldn't help but to try a bite of the perfectly crisped skin and juicy meat.



The meal ended with a rose flavored berry mouse, lemon sorbet and chocolate cake that once again looked almost too pretty to eat. But I did and the refreshing icyness of the sorbet was a good contrast to the richness of the chocolate.



I was going to just blurb a little bit and tease with some pictures because it's 3am in Taipei and I'm really tired and I thought blogging would cure my insomniai, but I ended up writing about the whole meal. I couldn't decide if I should strongly recommend or do a regular recommend with just one visit, but I just couldn't stop thinking about the food and with a long list of other places to blog about, I chose this one, so hopefully if you visit Forchetta, their plates will look and taste just as pretty for you and leave something for you think about even if you have insomnia.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

CLOSED-dessert/american: PS CAFE



(CLOSED- read comments sections for reader reviews)
PS CAFE
No. 181, Dun Hua S Road, Sec 1
(02)2776-0970

hours: 1pm- 12 midnight

$

Kid friendliness: coffeehouse by day, lounge bar by night- not the kid friendliest place with smokers and hipsters drinking their coffee in loud music.

Visit reviewed: 10/11/2007

Looking for a new place to have some afternoon tea, I was tempted by someone online who declared that PS Cafe's brownie were the "best in the world." So why not give it a try at NT$100.

When I got to Dun Hua South Road, I spotted a tall office building with the address that I written down. Confused, I peered inside and the guard asked what I was looking for. I said, I was looking for a restaurant. PS Cafe? He pointed me through the building and making a left onto the alley parallel to Dun Hua where I spotted the small patio. If you know where Haagen Daaz is on Dun Hua, then it's sort of "behind" it.

PS Cafe is pretty tiny, but with cozy lounge seating and a full drinks menu for coffee, lattes and alcohol, with a strange assortment of snacks and dishes for its food menu- including such items as paninis, lasagne, poutine, nachos, popcorn and hash browns (all for under NT$200).



The service is friendly enough, though I think two of female servers were bored and putting on their makeup at one of the tables while everyone was being hosted by the guy server. They were happy to show us a sample of the nachos when we thought about getting something salty after eating something sweet, and they had made one for the other customers (microwaved shredded cheese w/ meat sauce atop of corn chips, btw. I miss goopy nacho cheese out of a jar). I'm curious about the other foods on their menu- though the servers seemed to be putting everything together themselves, so I think they microwave/reheat everything rather than cook it.



But back to the brownie. We ordered one brownie to share (NT$100). They were out of vanilla lattes, so I ended up with a decent milk tea (NT$150) and my friend got a latte (NT$100). The brownie was served warm, but was more like a dense cake than the traditional fudge brownie. It was still a good solution for a chocolate craving- dipping each bite into the whip cream on the side- but I couldn't help but to think that it wasn't a brownie. For those who prefer cake-like brownies, it probably won't bother you a bit.

PS Cafe is a good alternative to Starbucks or the nearby Haagen Daaz to chill with friends after work or shopping, or for a late night snack since they are open until midnight. It wasn't too crowded in the afternoon and if you didn't feel like coffee, you could get a drink with something a little extra instead.

Monday, October 15, 2007

italian: CASA DELLA PASTA



CASA DELLA PASTA
23, Lane 233, Tun Hwa S. Rd, Sec 1
(02) 2771-7869

website: capasta.com Chinese w/ English for menu

12 pm to 2 pm for lunch
6 pm to 9 pm for dinner
closed Sundays

$

Kid friendliness: lots of crowded booths and boisterous atmosphere with lots of choices at affordable prices. did not see a lot of room for strollers or high chairs though. maybe call to check when you are making reservations.

Visit reviewed: 10/1/2007

It's not an understatement to say that Casa Della Pasta offers a LOT of different pasta dishes. But strangely enough, my favorite thing there was the chicken pita. With light pita bread (perhaps made with the same dough as the pizza), caesar style romaine and dressing and grilled chicken, the combination was a light, refreshing and satisfying entree, especially at NT$170. I think the crumbled bits of bacon really made it just right.



The pasta dishes are equally affordable from NT$95- NT$190 with hearty portions piled atop of the plate. You can choose from spaghetti or penne pasta and then choose the sauce- many variations of a basic cream or tomato sauce- along with a few pesto, olive oil and garlic or special sauces. I think we've been conditioned to pay about US$10 or so for a plate of pasta- which if you think about it is super super cheap to make. So with plates at Casa Della Pasta averaging US$3-6, it's a decent night out without having to eat at the food court and they don't skimp out on the portions because of the price.

From sampling the dishes around the table, the red sauces seemed to be a bit salty that night. I wasn't alone in my opinion of that the bolognese spaghetti and the pizza suffered from an extra pinch of salt that took away from the otherwise decent flavors. I didn't get to sample it- but the cream sauce with tuna seemed popular- maybe a Taipei Italian version of Tuna Helper?



There are eleven 7 inch pizzas available from NT$140-180, from the plain cheese to the more unique mushroom and anchovy or pineapple smoked chicken, as well as a calzone. The pizza was just okay- with the too salty sauce and too thin layer of cheese. I couldn't even really tell what the toppings were.



It's a popular place with locals- we squeezed in with our friends who had prior dinner reservations on this occassion on this packed night- so you can either call to make your reservation in advance or chance a wait. The atmosphere is casual yet more date-night friendly than the even more casual Bellini Pasta. The menu is in English and Chinese, with a handful of appetizers and salads, with the main focus on pasta and pizza and other mains like pitas and gnocchi available, as well as specials like lasagna and risotto available only on Saturdays.



It's not too hard to find- an alley away from Dun Hua Eslite and across from Ginjer Bakery. Just look for this sign if you are going at night.



PS Weirdly enough- there is another Casa Della Pasta with a strikingly similiar menu on Bei An Road and casataipei.com , but I'm not sure if the two are related or not, or maybe used to be and are not anymore? On the business card, it's not listed.


other locations:

7-1, Lane 11, Zhongshan N Rd, Sec. 2
(02) 2567-8769

136, Zhongshan Rd, Sec 1
(02) 2954-6133

Sunday, October 14, 2007

bakery/breakfast: DUNKIN DONUTS



DUNKIN DONUTS
Miramar Mall, B1
22 Jing Ye 3rd Road
DaZhi, Taipei

$

Kid friendliness: Self serve donuts, so kids can pick their own. Cafe style seating to eat the donuts right away!

Visit reviewed: 10/9/2007

Before Dunkin Donuts hit Taipei, I was able to nosh on some in Pusan, Korea where the American brand donut shop is also self serve for pleasant and take your time browsing. I was pretty happy with the experience, thinking if they can bring it to Korea, why not Taipei?

A short year later, DD hits Taipei, but has the American donut successfully translated over here where Mister Donut seems to be the reigning king of hole-y desserts?



Well... unfortunately, no. At least not from my first impressions from a late afternoon gathering of Munckins and a mocha frosted cruller. The munchkins were stale and made me yearn for the light chewiness of Mister Donut's mochi ring donuts, which the local DD has also presented its own variation. I've heard mixed things about the Dunkin Donuts debut in Taipei on various expat boards- supposedly the tastes were spot on in the beginning and then slowly adjusted (ruined) to local tastes. What's the point of having an American brand if you are going to make it taste like anything else you can get here?



Maybe the donuts just don't age well over the day or aren't the freshest in that particular location. Maybe my childhood cravings for Munchkins just built my expectations too high for what I wanted to taste. Maybe I'll give it another shot- another location, earlier in the day. Until then, you might spot me buying a mochi ring if there's no line at Mister Donuts.

If you happen to want to try it out yourself, the donuts average about NT$20-35 each, with hot and cold drinks and sandwiches also available.

PS- Again, I know it's a lot of work- but I still have a problem with international companies who do not put both English and Chinese on their info pamphlets. How am I supposed to find these other locations if I don't have a friend who can translate for me?

other locations (to come after I figure it out!):
Hsi Men Ding
Nan Jing East Road

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